Halfway into the sustainable development goal (SDG) period, the rural and urban divide in sanitation persists. As of 2020, less than half of the global rural population has access to safely managed sanitation. In India, the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission – Rural helped over 100 million rural households to construct individual toilets and access at least basic sanitation during 2014–2019. Expectedly, the increase in toilet usage has led to an urgent need for faecal sludge management (FSM). The present paper describes a novel model, rooted in an urban–rural partnership, to increase access to FSM services among rural households. In 2020–2021, we piloted the model in the Dhenkanal district in Odisha, which had a functional urban faecal sludge treatment plant (FSTP) and publicly run desludging trucks. The model adopted a five-step approach that included a data-led situational assessment, model development, stakeholder consultation, legal formalization of urban–rural partnership, and capacity building. Upon its implementation, the partnership transformed the rural sanitation service chain and resulted in the safe collection, conveyance, and treatment of 278 kL of faecal sludge from rural households within the first 5 months of implementation. As rural governments in India and other developing countries strive to achieve safely managed sanitation by 2030, the urban–rural partnership model discussed in the paper can present a viable pathway for rapidly scaling-up FSM services.

  • Innovative on liquid waste management.

  • Scalable and replicable model.

  • Caters to the entire sanitation chain with elements of sustainability.

  • First of its kind addressing ODF treatment and sustainability.

  • Environment compliant and NGT compliant.

Graphical Abstract

Graphical Abstract
Graphical Abstract
This content is only available as a PDF.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY 4.0), which permits copying, adaptation and redistribution, provided the original work is properly cited (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).